Schools Turn to Comics as Trial Balloon

Anonymous Patron writes "The Washington Post is the latest place to discover the term "graphic novel"The reputation of comics has improved so much in recent decades that Maryland is planning a program that would use the books in public schools to help engage reluctant readers. Although some teachers have drawn upon comics as teaching tools, officials said the statewide project is the first of its kind in the nation."

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and people think ...

...Catcher in the Rye is controversial? Wait til this becomes the norm. As a longtime comic book reader I've gotten tired of the lack standards in comic books and the increasing violence in them. I'm starting to list some of it as I read them. They're just not for kids anymore. Even Superman, which is mentioned in the article, had a scene recently where a villain is shown with blood on his front after he had raped a woman to death. Not good. Not good.

definitely not a new idea

Back in 7th grade my middle school English teacher had us read graphic novels instead of the actual works. For about a year I honestly thought "Last of the Mohicans" *was* a graphic novel. But other than messing with my 7th grader head, I don't know whether they were any better or worse than reading the actual work. I do know that they actually got read, unlike "The Odyssey" and "The Iliad" in 12th grade Honors English, but that's a story for another time...

I sorta agree

Publishing superhero comics that might appear attractive to children with plotlines that are for mature readers without some sort of designation (rating label, mature readers publishing house like DC's Vertigo) is not a great idea. I'm not sure if Identiy Crisis for example had a warning on it or was published under the Comics Code.

However I think that most of the gritty superhero stories are really marketed to a male, over 25 adult audience. I don't think that superheroes appeal to children as much as something like Yu-gi-oh does.

Most kids these days are reading manga, and the major manga publishers have ratings on their comics, and shrinkwrap the titles that are for a mature audience.

There are also some really great comics out there that are published for an all ages audience that would be a great fit in a school library.

Re:definitely not a new idea

My mother, an English teacher of 35+ years, was my co-consipirator when she bought me the graphic novel version of "Great Expectations" for my 9th grade honors English class.

Re:and people think ...

I completely agree. After looking at some of the comic books in the older era, and then looking at some modern ones, it is quite sad how far comic book plots have been going down hill. Nowadays, its all about killing and sex. It is no surprise that very few people now compared to those 50 years ago read comics, or why the youngins are turning to the Japanese for their comic fix (increasingly, anyway). Beyonder, where are you!?!?!?

***I do not know about Catcher in the Rye being controversial, but heavens, I absolutely hated that book.

Re:I sorta agree

IC doesn't have a warning label or the CCA (but how many people even know what that is?), its also the most heinous piece of writing this year.

Re:and people think ...

Beyonder?! Noooooo, there's much better stuff out there than that!

Re:and people think ...

Finally American audiences are reaching the conclusion that, just because it's a comic book or a cartoon, doesn't automatically mean it's for kids. However, when it comes to titles like Superman and especially Batman DC and Marvel also realized that a huge portion of their reader base is not as young as some people think. A massive part of comic readers are the 18 and over variety.

However, using typical American short sightedness, they don't really inform readers that they're purchasing a comic with a more mature storyline. After all, they don't want to scare anyone off. Thing is, that most comic readers would expect blood, violence, rape, and gore in a Batman comic. Batman's storyline is very dark, almost gothic. There's murder, violence, rape, and savagery. That's as much a part of the Gotham skyline as the Batsignal. On the other hand, Superman is the all-American boyscout who saves falling trains and the like. Metropolis and Gotham are nothing alike, so I think it'd surprise a lot of readers to see rape, murder, etc. in a Supes comic.

I really think there should be some kind of rating or warning or something on a comic with a mature storyline. Sure there's room in the DC comics and Marvel comics universes for adult storylines. After all, some characters really lend themselves to that. Batman and the Punisher are all about revenge. Superman and the Fantastic Four are all about truth and goodness and happiness. Obviously one set of heros are darker than the other.

There are some steps being made. Someone mentioned that DC tends to publish the dark stuff under the Vertigo banner. Marvel uses a Marvel Knights banner. That's where you'll find the gritty stuff. But yeah, more and more, the lines between the banners grow thin.

On a final note, someone mentioned the manga and how it's popular with kids. The really interesting thing about manga and it's target audiences is that the Japanese really go for a target audience and make the story and cover art so there's no doubt what's inside. Yu Gi Oh looks like teen and young adult stuff. Hamtaro and Pokemon look like kiddie fare. Golgo 13, on the other hand, looks like it's for adults, which it is. And then things like Urotsukidoji, looks like it's XXX rated, or hentai as the Japanese call it. The point is that, unlike American comics, they really understand who their stories are for and who wants to read them and they do everything they can to target that market.

The problem is that, when the manga or anime reach America, dimwitted American companies may modify or change the work to reach a broader audience. Sailor Moon, for example, has a lesbian undertone that offends the Japanese not at all but is considered somehow unclean for American audiences. So they removed it. Now when a kid goes and buys a non-modified manga or anime, they may unwittingly snag something they had no idea existed.

Re:I sorta agree

I'd heard that IC was really bad, so I didn't even pick it up. I don't tend to read any DC comics other than some of the Vertigo and CMX titles.

Re:I sorta agree

If it were a Vertigo (mature) title with a complete set of new characters a la Watchmen it would be pretty good actually but the ramifications to the DC Universe are too big to ignore.

Re:and people think ...

Actually, being a big sailor moon fan (guilty pleasure), the only real lesbian undertones were found later in the series. And the american companies do have good reason to delete scenes from certain anime. It is not due to being dumb, more so to adjust to American sensabilities. Though, I admit, the fact Sailor Uranus and Neptune were cousins in America, but were lesbian lovers in Japan, absolutely did nothing to change the tone of the show for me.

But back on topic. I have not bought a new American comic book since this short story-arc involving the Avengers and Ultron; where, essentially, Ultron wipes out an entire nation of its citizens. It was pretty good, but very violent.

However, I really do not see much in the way of American comics attracting new fans. I would guess that the reason why many American comics are getting extreme would be to have some sort of aura of being hardcore or forbidden, in the hopes of attracting a young crowd they believe are into that sort of thing.

I think that in the recent decades, comic books, which were once very popular among a broad audience, have nowadays been seen as something nerdy. I do not think it would be possible for it to make a sustained comeback in to the actual mainstream, except for the occasional Marvel movie blockbuster.

Just because it's graphic doesn't mean....

that it will be particularly engaging. I was trying to find a graphic novel that dealt with the civil war, since my 8th grader has very low interest in history. I found one title that was marketed as a "graphic novel" about the civil war, but it was just a badly drawn comic with a crappy story line. I'm not so much worried about offensive stuff getting into the classroom as I am about school districts getting hornswaggled into buying slick-marketed, buzzword crud that won't be any more effective or compelling than a textbook. I mean, read the ad copy for this one. Yuck!

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